Top-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal, the tournament's defending champion, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1 to win his first U.S. Open tennis championship
NEW YORK — For most of Monday’s 4-hour, 10-minute U.S. Open men’s final, it felt more like a heavyweight fight than a tennis match, with Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal of Spain trading full-body blows with their rackets.
But the top-seeded Djokovic landed the more punishing hits, pummeling Nadal, the tournament’s defending champion, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1 to win his first U.S. Open championship after finishing as the tournament’s runner-up in 2007 and 2010.
With the victory, Djokovic improved his record in this spectacular season to 64-2.
At 24, he has won three of the sport’s four majors, with the U.S. Open rounding out a portfolio that includes the 2008 and 2011 Australian Open titles and the Wimbledon championship in July, where he also dethroned Nadal for the title.
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Djokovic fell flat on his back on court after ripping a final forehand winner — his 55th winner of the match.
“Maybe it is the best match I played this year,” he said. “I stepped on the court believing I could win. I didn’t give him any comfort. I didn’t give him any room.”
Nadal, 25, was quick to the net with a congratulatory handshake.
But as the match made clear, the left-hander has yet to figure out a solution to Djokovic — who is 6-0 against him this year — no matter how much energy he expends on court.
Before a crowd of 23,000, Nadal mounted another physically wrenching effort against Djokovic. Once again, he lost.
There was an unrelenting rhythm to the match, and it exacted a harsh toll on both players — particularly Djokovic, who was two points from winning in straight sets, serving at 6-5 and 30-all, only to get broken after sending a forehand long.
There were signs Djokovic’s lower back was ailing when the contenders began the tiebreak after more than three hours of play.
Down two sets to none, Nadal pumped his first and roared after winning the tiebreak. With new life, Nadal looked as if he could push on to a fifth set, while Djokovic appeared in distress, calling for a medical timeout to receive treatment on his back after the first game of the fourth set.
But after whatever kink was kneaded out, Djokovic stormed to the finish, closing with the swiftest set.
Nadal was asked if the six-minute medical timeout threw him off his rhythm.
“We are starting the press conference in a bad way, I think,” he said with a smile. “Let’s talk about the match. It’s not the right moment to find excuses if he stops the match or if I was tired. I fought until the last point. I tried my best in every moment. But in general, I think he did great, no?”
• American Serena Williams received a $2,000 fine Monday from tournament referee Brian Earley for her outburst during the women’s final Sunday. The fine accounted for about 14-hundredths of a percent of her $1.4 million payday the night before.
Williams collected $900,000 for her runner-up finish to Australian Samantha Stosur. She also earned $500,000 for finishing first in the US Open Series standings, which include other hardcourt events before the Open.
Williams berated chair umpire Eva Asderaki on multiple occasions, once saying, “You’re a hater and you’re unattractive inside.”
Williams had a similar confrontation at the 2009 U.S. Open, when she threatened a line judge.
• Stosur’s victory over Williams got a 4.2 overnight rating on CBS. Last year’s final, when Kim Clijsters beat Vera Zvonareva on a Saturday night, drew a 1.9 rating